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Preserves have become popular places for experienced hunters to introduce new and non-hunters to wingshooting.
Photo by: Author
Depending on each state’s hunting and preserve regulations, hunters may be required to possess a state issued small game license. Some state-licensed shooting preserves can issue a special one-day hunting license, but hunters are usually required to present a previous hunting license (from another year or another state) or proof of completing a hunter education course. Whereas, other states do not require any form of hunting license.

Many hunters and Fish and Game officials believe that shooting preserves might very well be the future of hunting in heavily populated states, particularly along the east coast. Most believe that hunting preserves are gaining in popularity because they provide bird hunters with the chance of getting an earlier start on the season and to continue hunting well after the regular season closes. The regular gunning season for pheasants, quail and chukar in most eastern states does not usually begin until October or early November and usually ends in January or February. Preserves also allow hunters to get out and hunt birds without competing with the crowds on state lands or WMA’s. In densely populated areas, preserves offer hunters an alternative to public hunting grounds without traveling far distances or spending exorbitant amounts of money. With land at a premium and increased development comes less access to private and some public land. Loss of habitat due to urbanization, fewer working farms and suburban encroachment causes native game bird populations to continue to decline, resulting in fewer opportunities and less places for the average hunter to hunt. As an example, many of the grouse and woodcock coverts I hunted as a youth in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York State are now condominium complexes and shopping malls. Other factors have also contributed to shooting preserves newfound popularity including the increasing cost of raising game birds, mainly due to rising grain prices and the public’s resistance to increase the price of hunting licenses, pheasant stamps or tags, has caused many eastern state wildlife agencies to reduce the total number of birds stocked in previous years. Mainly due to these issues, especially in the northeastern United States, preserve hunting has become a viable alternative.

The majority of shooting preserve owners also believe these factors have helped to fuel their newfound popularity amongst ardent wingshooters. Because of the preserves extended seasons, many hunters are now visiting local preserves to keep their dogs in birds well after their regular gunning season has closed and many of the clients have become repeat customers. But, people hunt preserves for a variety of reasons. Many just like to get away from the crowds on state lands and be afield with just their dogs or a group of friends. In recent years, many corporate executives have begun using shooting preserves for business outings and preserves have become popular places for experienced hunters to introduce spouses, children and friends to hunting.

Without any interference from other hunters, the psychological pressures of being observed by strangers and plenty of birds to shoot at, preserves are a perfect place to introduce new and non-hunters to wingshooting. Preserves allow first time hunters to gain valuable experience by being with a guide or other more knowledgeable hunters. And, because shooting preserves offer a better opportunity of seeing birds, first time hunters usually have a positive experience. For these reasons, shooting preserves are often the places many woman and children experience hunting for the first time.

Because shooting preserves remain open long after regular hunting seasons have closed, they allow hunters and dogs to spend more time in the field.
Photo by: Author
I firmly believe that the bad rap that shooting preserves get is mainly due to anti-hunter sentiment and propaganda. That whole tired diatribe about canned or staged hunts has found its way into the thinking of many “hunters.” This is basically the same argument about hunting “pen-raised” birds and if this is your belief than I again ask you to explain to me the difference in using “pen-raised” birds at state stocked lands, at private clubs, during field trials and hunting tests or at a shooting preserve. Oh, and by the way, I personally feel my dogs handle wild birds better because of their experience with “pen-raised” birds! Can’t wait for the emails!

So, if you would like to get a few more days in the field with your dog this year, why not try a preserve hunt?
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